Book: A Pale Horse

Title: A Pale Horse
Author: Charles Todd
Genre: Historical Mystery
Length: 360 pgs.

Summary: It is 1920 London, and Inspector Ian Rutledge is freshly traumatized from the Great War. But he pushes it, and the persistent voice of a dead man, away so he can focus on this new mystery. The body of a man in a broken gas mask is found dead in the ruins of an old Abbey in Yorkshire, and no one knows who he is or how he came to be there. Rutledge is sent first to Yorkshire, and then to Berkshire’s White Horse in search of the man’s identity and murderer.

Excerpts:

pg 4 – In the darkness the voice of Hamish MacLeod answered him. A dead man’s voice, but for nearly four years now it had seemed to Rutledge as real as his own. Had had never grown used to hearing it, and yet with time he had come to terms of a sort with it. It was either that or madness. And he feared madness more.

pg 61 – Just as in the war, death pursued him as a policeman as well. It was his chosen profession, but he found himself thinking that the men who had built such splendor had left a greater legacy than most. Names long since forgotten, they lived on in what their hands had wrought. Not guns or tanks or deadly gas, but in stone, defining the human spirit’s capacity to create rather than destroy.

Hamish, good Covenanter that he was, preferred unadorned simplicity.

Why should you read this book?

Part mystery, part literary fiction about a man back from the gassed trenches of the Great World War (WWI to Americans), this book was excellent. I understand it is one in a series about Ian Rutledge, and this book drew me into his world and mind so well that I want to read the entire series. Will he get over his past with Hamish, his dead friend?

Read this book for an example of how to intersperse research and setting between self-reflection, dialogue, and plot. We know where we are and what we’re doing, dropped into a mystery and unsure Rutledge will be able to prove who the killer is, and whether we’re right about our own suspicions. But like I said, this isn’t just a straight mystery. We learn so much about Rutledge in the way he reacts to people, and how he holds conversations with Hamish when alone to appease his guilt. I truly enjoyed this book, and learned a great deal from the writing style.